It was October 1964. I was in Istanbul Turkey. I had just arrived with other Peace Corps Volunteers and we were having a party. A friend had a record of a new singing group, the Beatles. I remember hearing the song, When I’m 64.
Fast forward 43 years later. I’m sitting in my living room in Denver, Colorado with boxes of papers surrounding me. I have just retired from corporate America. I had worked in a variety of jobs, raised a daughter, moved a lot of times and taken several wonderful vacations. So what was next? Mark Twain once said, there are two important days in your life; the day you were born and the day you figure out why. I realized that I hadn’t figured out why and my years of living hadn’t really given me any meaningful clues.
Up until that point, life had pretty much directed me. I had graduated from college, gotten married, had a family and a career. The big decisions had been made for me. I had just filled in the details. A few detours such as a divorce, the death of several family members and treatment for breast cancer changed my values but after the initial trauma of those experiences, I felt stronger. Now at age 65 I was healthier, smarter and liking myself more than ever. But I didn’t have a clue as to what to do next. Not only did I not know the answers but I wasn’t sure as to what the possibilities were.
Being a self-help book junkie, I had bookcases filled with books with all sorts of answers. But I couldn’t find one that addressed my questions. At the same time I had an unrelenting little nudge inside telling me to sit down and write. Since I had no idea as to what to write, this nudge really annoyed me. To quiet this irritant, I sat down with a paper and pen one afternoon and began writing. I reached down into my heart and reflected on the experiences that were making this time in my life in many ways, more genuine and real than ever before.
I began to gain clarity about what strengths were valuable in savoring this second half of life and about the desserts waiting discovery. This wasn’t the time of gloom and doom that I had been expecting when reflecting on the culture’s aging stereotypes that were often based in fear, isolation and personal diminishment. I knew that my earlier years had given me valuable information, which gave me useful information to design this time of life. There no doubt were others my age that had this value information inside of them that was waiting to be mined. Perhaps they needed some inspiration to search for these gems.
But what was I going to call my book? One Saturday during my search, I was having lunch with friends. We were brain storming some names when the waitress came around, took our plates and told us to keep our forks. One friend chimed in, “Dessert is On The Way.” There! I had the name!
I love hearing how my friends who have read Keep Your Fork are inspired to write their own new stories. No generation in history has had this rich opportunity to embrace the second half of life with such optimism, passion and humor. I would love for you to share your story of the gems you have discovered in the second half of life.